Once Troubled, Andrew Jackson High School Evolves Into Advanced Technology Magnet

Video games are anything but child’s play for students at Andrew Jackson High School of Advanced Technology where computer coding, animation and simulation programming are the daily classroom lessons.

ELEVATOR PITCH

Andrew Jackson High School of Advanced Technology, a top-performing magnet school in Duval County, paves the way for its students to enter business and technology industries. By offering courses on video games, computer coding, animation, simulation programming and more, Andrew Jackson High School takes its students’ interests into account, ultimately rendering their curriculum meaningful and their futures full of possibility.

THE STORY

A syllabus at Andrew Jackson High School might read like a techie’s dream—and like a tech school’s curriculum. With its courses focused on concepts and skills necessary for a career in business or technology, the high school is preparing its students for the jobs of tomorrow by catering to their interests of today.

The hands-on learning that Jacksonville has become known for is possible thanks to its state-of-the-art computer labs and support technology. While it is the only public school in Duval County to offer a video gaming design, development, and programming magnet, it is also the first to offer a cybersecurity magnet. Courses in unmanned aircraft systems, accelerated information technology security, and sports medicine are also available to students.

No matter the course students opt-in for, assignments are designed to challenge students to think critically, act creatively, and overall, to be innovative.

“We definitely want this to be a school where those opportunities are available to everyone in Duval County because we know that many of our students that excel in IT and who like computers are not necessarily like your 4.5 GPA students,” Assistant Principal James Stuckey said in an interview. “You don’t have to be gifted in all areas in order to get into the school.”

“Making it a dedicated magnet school that focuses on advanced technology [appeals] to certain types of students,” Principal Tracolya Clinch has said. “We obviously still have a lot of neighborhood students here taking advantage of the programs.”

These programs teach students the skills necessary to secure and succeed in high-tech jobs. A video-game design class, for example, includes learning computer coding, animation, and simulation programming. In a cybersecurity course, students try to hack into a simulated corporate computer network, a process based on ethical hacking. The hope is to get—and keep—students interested in not only computer programming, which is the foundation of many lucrative high-tech jobs, but also to spark a larger interest in science and its future.

“Computer science by itself might not be the most fun thing to read about, but if we present it in an engaging way like video games, all of a sudden those skills you need to make a game become that much more important,” says teacher Ian Lozano.

Another means of interesting students in industries of the future is allowing them to work with data science—like artificial intelligence and networks— and also on automated cars. Partnerships with companies like TSYS and JTA make such opportunities possible.

Andrew Jackson High School, in terms of its amazing turnaround and its high-tech-savvy students, is proof of just how fundamental and transformative innovation is here in Jacksonville.

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